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The other night, some friends and I were batting around predictions for 2020. Mine was that Brazil would come into its own as a major power. It doesn't have the population of China or India, but it has the capacity to lead its continent, a job which has, to this date, gone unfilled.

Of course, I could just be biased. My father is from Rio, and the bulk of my family is still in Brazil. An article from Sunday's paper, however, makes the case with more objective distance:

Once hobbled with high inflation and perennially susceptible to worldwide crises, Brazil now has a vibrant consumer market, investment-grade status for its sovereign debt, vast foreign reserves and an agricultural sector that is vying to supplant that of the United States as the world's most productive.

Brazil's $1.3 trillion economy is bigger than those of India and Russia, and its per-capita income is nearly twice that of China. Recent discoveries by Brazil's state oil company are expected to make the country one of the world's biggest crude producers. An unwieldy bureaucracy and red tape have not slowed foreign investment, which at $45 billion in 2008 is three times as much as it was a decade ago.

Plus, they've got the Olympics in 2016. And nothing ever bad happens after a country hosts the Olympics, right?

Photo credit: Mousse/AFP/Getty.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 3, 2010; 8:15 AM ET
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Maybe Brazil can start leaning something about soil conservation, ecology and treating indigenous peoples with dignity instead of rifle bullets and starvation.

Posted by: majorteddy | January 4, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Brazil is certainly poised to benefit from the Internet. Whether it becomes a "major power" depends on how you define major. I believe there are powerful interests determined to make an example of any country that dares to elect a socialist government.

As an aside, if you compare GDP graphs for various countries, you'll notice Mexico escaped last year's financial crisis. This article below (cached) argues that it's solely because of the drug trade, which is 5% of Mexico's GDP:

Posted by: bmull | January 4, 2010 12:29 AM | Report abuse

The fact that you didn't use this as an opportunity for this link: is shameful.

Posted by: endaround | January 4, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Brazil certainly has a lot of the raw materials needed for success but they seriously need to get their act together and start running their nation less like an overgrown banana republic and more like a first-world nation.

Plus, don't underestimate the issues inherent in their being a "language island" on their continent. It's a real inhibitor to growth.

Posted by: Sprezzatura | January 4, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

I find it interesting Ezra that the article you highlight here mentions Brazil's recent oil discoveries, off shore oil discoveries by the way, when your liberal buddies have been trying to kill off oil exploration both on shore and especially off shore for years in this country. Apparently its OK for third world countries to use oil to grow their economies but not this country.

Posted by: RobT1 | January 4, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

It would seem the high level of violent crime in Brasil would be a problem too.

Posted by: AuthorEditor | January 4, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Did you see the Economist's special report on Brazil back in November?

I thought the article about the unofficial economy was interesting - it seems that it's such a pain to get a business licensed, pay taxes, etc, that a large percentage of entrepreneurs just operate unofficially instead.

Posted by: Liz_B | January 4, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

There's an old saying:

Brazil is the country of the future and it always will be.

Although I haven't studied them recently, perhaps now really is their time.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | January 4, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

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